The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

TMIS Editorial: Ad hocus-pocus

Sunday, 25 August 2019, 10:40 Last update: about 7 months ago

The conscience of Malta and Europe as a whole can ill-afford more scenes like those we have been treated to over the last couple of weeks, or shall we says months or years, of desperate people and desperate rescue ships begging for a safe port, only to instead find walls.

The sorry state of Europe’s humanitarian heart has been exposed after 500 plus migrants rescued at sea after they were sent pillar to post looking for someone to let them in.

Malta on Friday, and at long last, relented and allowed the Ocean Viking’s human cargo the facility to be brought to Malta after it was assured that six other EU member states would resettle them amongst their ranks.

This is all well and good and it was high time that a solution was found.

But the fact of the matter is that Europe, and Malta – for it is Malta that invariably finds itself in the migratory hot seat time and time again because of its geographical proximity to the central Mediterranean crisis zone – have been failing the humanitarian call rather miserably.

We simply cannot keep conjuring up a trick called ‘forced humanity’ every time there is a migrant standoff and no one wants to know about it, and we cannot keep pulling – kicking and screaming – a rabbit called ‘solidarity’ out of the EU hat every time certain EU leaders decide a critical mass of their populations have had enough of such behaviour.

We cannot keep conjuring these ad hoc, hocus-pocus agreements each and every time we have desperate souls stranded at sea in need of a port, for whatever reason.

Enough of the hocus-pocus now, this is a problem that is not going to go away anytime quickly and what we very clearly need are real, tangible, actionable modus operandi in such situations.

These kind of stand-off situations have become all too common in the Mediterranean these days and, like it or not, Malta is square in the middle of it all and as such, it may just have to be down to us to find that solution.

What we have witnessed with the Open Arms and the Ocean Viking threatens to repeat itself this summer, and as of yesterday Mission Lifeline is also back in action along the Libyan coast.

And as such, migrant diplomacy in the Mediterranean could still get pretty hot this summer.

We clearly, very clearly, need a Europe-wide solution, rather than individual ad hoc solutions.

That is because the problem here is that the migration situation is far from an ad hoc situation, it is a permanent, recurring situation constant that needs to be addressed with permanent measures on an EU-wide level.

It must be understood that hardly any of the migrants we are speaking of are headed for Malta, Italy or Spain in particular – they are headed for the wider European Union where they believe they will be given refuge. Malta, in fact, is very low on desired resettlement locations among those heading to Europe.

But any such solution must at all costs include a functioning, Europe-wide asylum system with proper support for frontline states such as Malta, and the creation of shared responsibilities for the whole of Europe.

Anything short of that and these recurring migrant sagas are destined to repeat themselves over and over again this summer and many summers to come. This is a prospect that Malta, and indeed Europe, can ill-afford.

This has to stop, it cannot become the new normal.

And in this context, Malta cannot tolerate any Salvini-styled politicians among its ranks. Our own prime minister has distinctly chosen to not go down that route, which is a good thing considering how different things were at the infancy of his tenure. So has out Opposition leader and we are glad that they can agree on at least this one stance.

With these repeated migrant stand-offs, it is clear that Europe is losing the conscientious kind of soul that it professes to have, and if it were to correct that with some real humanitarian solutions, now that would be a magic trick to write home about.

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